Akeem Johnston completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 2021 with a major in English, and is currently working as Brand Coordinator at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna. Akeem says, “I chose UBC’s Okanagan campus because I knew it would give me the best opportunity to explore my passions while determining what degree I wanted.”
We asked Akeem to tell us a little bit about his time here at UBCO and what he is doing now that he has graduated.
Tell us about your experience here at UBC Okanagan.
I had many highlights during my UBC experience, but three stand out. The friends I made at UBCO are important to me and have become some of my best friends over the past few years. I took a year off my studies to be part of the co-op program and had the opportunity to work at the university which became a jumpstart into my profession. The professors I connected with at UBCO helped me learn as much as possible about my writing while helping me gain skills that have proven valuable in my work environment. Margaret Reeves is a professor that made a difference and helped me immensely. She challenged me to become a better writer and to develop distinct arguments. I knew I could send her a thought-provoking idea and that she would help me create a congruent argument while allowing me the freedom to pursue the argument to its full extent. She also helped me with my career, as she was a reference during my co-op and she wrote me a letter of recommendation that helped me obtain my current position. I made sure to get a seat in her class every year and highly recommend other students do the same.
Why did you choose to major in English?
When I entered UBCO, I knew I wanted an English degree, but I did not know what was possible with such a degree. During one of my first-year classes, a guest professor explained the relationship between an English degree and marketing, and that presentation convinced me to pursue marketing. Obtaining any degree is difficult and the road proved arduous at certain junctions, but my professors were very helpful and understanding which made the journey easier.
Tell us about your co-op experience.
I worked with the team in University Relations at UBCO as a social media manager during my co-op year. This position allowed me to learn about marketing tools to use social media to grow a business. Those same tools are useful for my current position, where I use sales marketing to help Bylands grow as a business. My English major is useful as I have to write and edit throughout the creative process, which is much easier with an English degree. The creativity that an English degree fleshes out of you is also very important for marketing, as I learned how to use my creativity as a tool to display my thoughts to the consumer. I also recommend co-op as an opportunity to determine if the career you imagine is something that you want. Working for UBCO further reinforced my future in marketing, but it also allowed me to focus on another career if necessary before I graduated.
What are you doing now that you have graduated?
My current position is the Brand Coordinator at Bylands Nurseries. I am the head of sales marketing, so I help develop marketing plans and determine the best ways to connect with our customers. I develop sales sheets and sales guides, as well as marketing plans to grow Byland’s presence. One of the most enjoyable parts of this job is the other things asked of me, as every day something new pops up on my desk and presents a unique challenge. I can navigate these challenges with the help of the awesome team of workers we have here at Bylands. There is a family atmosphere that became apparent from my first day onwards, and I am very thankful for the opportunity I have been given by Bylands.